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Where Do My Donations Go? A Conversation on SDA Church Financial Structure – Ann Gibson

Date: 3 December 2016

Speaker: Dr. Ann Gibson

Position:  Professor Emerita of Business, AU; Assistant to the General Conference Treasurer for Treasurer Training

Topic: Where Do My Donations Go? A Conversation on SDA Church Financial Structure

Venue:  Garber Auditorium, Chan Shun Hall

Attendance: ~55

 

Dr. Gibson began by saying she would relay facts and figures concerning the financial structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She was interested in answering the question: What happens to one’s donations after they are given to the church?

She first provided an overview of church structure as a framework for understanding the disposition of donated funds:

Local congregation – Where everything starts; the most important structural level

Local conference – Collection of local congregations; 57 in North American Division

Union conference – Presides over local conferences; 9 in North American Division

Division – Oversees the union conferences; 13 divisions worldwide

General Conference – Presides over the divisions

In addition to the ecclesiastical structure, there are many types of institutions – schools, universities, hospitals, etc.

Current membership in the SDA Church:  19.1 million. The largest division is the Inter-American Division with 3.6 million members. This is followed closely by the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division with 3.5 million members, and the East Central African Division with 3.2 million members.

The total annual contributions to the church equal 3.5 billion dollars, of which 2.5 billion are designated as tithe. The North American Division contributes a total of 1.5 billion. The church is organized for world mission; the intent is to share resources around the world where they are most needed to expand mission. Local decision-making is favored regarding use of funds.

The General Conference uses it share of income primarily for special appropriations to the divisions and to General Conference institutions, especially for missionary work, evangelistic work, publishing, and software. The operating expenses of the General Conference amount to 2% of the total tithe income.

The North American Division takes in 983.25 million dollars in tithe, of which 810.82 million is retained at the local and union conference levels. The North American Division appropriates funds to the General Conference, tithe exchange, evangelism, special assistance, Adventist Media Center, auditing, defined benefit plan, etc. The administrative costs of the North American Division amounts to 1.92% of the gross tithe income. Non-tithe expenditures go mostly to K-12 education.

Things that keep Juan Prestol, General Conference Treasure, awake at night:

  1. Volatile currencies and exchange rates. Currently, U.S. dollar is strong. Annual Council voted to provide overseas appropriations in local currencies – This saves the GC exchange losses due to the strong dollar.
  2. Brexit and its ultimate effect on the British pound.
  3. Brazil’s currency in decline – Brazil contains the highest proportion of SDAs in South America.
  4. Mexico’s government blockage of currency.
  5. Previously voted plan for a decline in the percentage of tithe that will be sent on to the General Conference from the North American Division–i.e., the voted plan for the NAD to retain a higher percentage of tithe than was done so previously.
  6. Reduced income to General Conference from the North American Division, once the NAD moves to its own facilities in April 2017 and no longer pays rent to the General Conference.

Dr. Gibson’s responsibilities as Assistant to the General Conference Treasurer for Treasurer Training include training treasures in the various divisions – she will work in five divisions in 2017 – and she manages a website for treasurers which includes over 150 presentations.

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